Pagina:Zibaldone di pensieri VII.djvu/395

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386 pensieri (4452-4453)

piú volte), the swanlike strains of a slaughtered nation; now that every one knows that poetry lives in every people, until metrical forms, foreign models, the various and multiplying interests of every-day life, general dejection or luxury, stifle it so, that of the poetical spirits, still more than of all others, very few find vent: while on the contrary spirits without poetical genius, but with talents so analogous to it that they may serve as a  (4453) substitute, frequently usurp the art; now the empty objections that have been raised no longer need any answer. Whoever does not discern such lays in the epical part of Roman story, may continue blind to them: he will be left more and more alone every day: there can be no going backward on this point for generations.

One among the various forms of Roman popular poetry was the nenia, the praise of the deceased, which was sung to the flute at funeral processions, (not. 632. Cicero de legib. II. 24). as it was related in the funeral orations. We must not think here of the Greek threnes and elegies: in the old times of Rome the fashion was not to be melted into a tender mood, and to bewail the dead; but to pay him honour. We must therefore imagine the nenia to have been a memorial lay, such as was sung at banquets: indeed the latter was perhaps no other than what had been first heard at the funeral. And thus it is possible that, without being aware of it, we may possess some of these lays, which Cicero supposed to be totally lost: for surely a doubt will scarcely be moved against the thought, that the inscriptions in verse (not. 633. On the coffin of L. Barbatus the verses are marked and made apparent by lines to separate them: in the inscription on his son they form an equal number of lines, and may be recognized with as much certainty as in the former from the great difference in the length of them) on the oldest coffins in the se-